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Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies

Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies (photo)

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One of my favorite pieces we’ve ever done here on IFC.com was our Halloween 2009 list: “The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies.” It featured great writing from critics like Matt Zoller Seitz, Sam Adams and others, and it was just a great topic. Arguably, the scary scenes in supposedly non-scary movies are more terrifying than the ones in horror movies because they catch us off-guard. You pay for “The Exorcist,” you know what you’re in for. You pay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you think you’re in for an old-fashioned adventure until Nazis’ faces start melting all over the place.

Our original list from 2009 holds up, but in the past two years there have been some new, unforgettably scary moments in non-horror movies. So in honor of Halloween 2011, here is an update. We typically like including YouTube videos in this sort of list, but these are recent movies so they’re not always readily available; we improvised as best we could.

The Furnace Scene
from “Toy Story 3”
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Years after year of mature entertainments have given Pixar the well-deserved reputation as a studio that makes family films for both children and adults, but “Toy Story 3” was so dark it turned adults into children: screaming, crying, begging-for-Mommy-style babies. In one of the most disquieting representations of the inevitable end maybe ever, destiny leads the toys into a giant trash furnace where, with no escape possible, they accept their fate, lock hands, and wait for death. It looks like it’s all over but the melting. Luckily for the toys, things worked out okay thanks to a last minute deus ex machina; unluckily for plenty of people in the audience — myself included — they remained just a wee bit scarred for life. Scariest of all? After all that time at the trash dump, kids start playing with these toys again. Just think of all the germs! Pixar’s going to have to call the next movie in the franchise “Toy Story 4: Contagion 2.” Blech.


Three Serial Killers Walk Into a Car…
from “I Saw the Devil”
Directed by Kim Ji-woon

Technically “I Saw the Devil” is a thriller or a cat-and-mouse chase movie, but it has more scares than a lot of “real” horror movies. It opens like a horror movie too, with a young woman savagely murdered on a deserted road in her broken-down car. But then the woman’s fiancé, a super-badass secret agent, decides to get even with the monster who killed his lover by turning himself into a monster; for the rest of the film, the two battle it out an increasingly gruesome series of encounters. Escaping from one of their fights, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) manages to hitch a ride which, by sheer coincidence, is being driven by a couple more deranged killers. After a brief stand-off, that leads to this terrifying and dizzying scene, as Kyung-chul wildly stabs at the other two guys while the car careens off the road. The real horror here is the blood; not so much the amount of it but the way it seems to be spraying unpredictably in every direction, even on the camera lens, which suggests that the messy frenzy was too much even for the cinematographer to handle. If “I Saw the Devil” isn’t technically a horror movie, scenes like this one prove it is definitively a movie about horror.


“Is This Gonna Be Our Time?”
from “Winter’s Bone”
Directed by Debra Granik

A cop pulls over a man and a young woman in a pickup trick. The man never gets out of the truck, never even turns his head to look at the police officer; he just tightens his grip on the shotgun between his legs and speaks to the cop through the side view mirror. After a few terse, tense words, Teardrop (John Hawkes, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination) brings his weapon into view and evenly says “Is this gonna be our time?” The cop backs off. As this scene shows, facing down a man who isn’t afraid of death can be just as scary as facing down death itself.

To watch this scene on YouTube, click here. Below is embedded another scene from “Winter’s Bone” featuring more super-intense acting from John Hawkes.



Home Invasion
From “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Directed by Sean Durkin

Another amazingly tense scene featuring actor John Hawkes. In this one from the still-in-theaters “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Hawkes and his cult have invaded a random home when the robbery is interrupted by the homeowner. Hawkes’ Patrick doesn’t want to hurt anyone (or so he says), but he also can’t let anyone know about his group or their crime spree, which creates a dilemma. Hawkes is not a traditionally scary screen presence. He’s not a big, physically imposing dude; as you can see in the scene below, he’s actually shorter than the guy he’s scaring the shit out of. So why does he make this list twice? Because he’s so good at playing characters who never lose their cool, even when they should. There’s something really unsettling about the way Patrick and Teardrop never raise their voice and never gets upset. In other words, it’s not that John Hawkes looks all that intimidating. It’s that John Hawkes never looks intimidated.



The Motel Double Cross
from “Drive”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Like “I Saw the Devil,” “Drive” is a hybrid, and I swear I’m not saying that to make a cheap car joke (at least not on purpose). It begins as a straight heist movie, becomes a character study, then turns to the crime genre again before exploding — literally exploding — with so much gore that it begins to look like a slasher movie. Again, it’s the unexpectedness of that sudden shift into violence that makes it particularly effective. The most disturbing sequence comes just after Ryan Gosling’s Driver has been double crossed by the guy who hired him to participate in a pawn shop robbery. Just as he realizes the scope of the conspiracy, shotgun wielding goons arrive to finish the job. In the interest of preserving said surprise I’ll leave things there, except to say after watching “Drive” you’ll never look at Christina Hendricks in “Mad Men” the same way again.

You can see brief glimpses of the motel sequence in the red band trailer for the film, embedded below:


What’s your favorite scary moment in a non-horror movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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